And it has taken over three years to get to this point …
Hours of steering group meetings (with lashings of tea and biscuits provided by Chris Gibbins), extensive consultation with residents of the village, landowners surrounding Feniton and statutory consultees, and finally the examiner has submitted her report.
But it’s good news …
The examiner recommended only minor modifications to the Neighbourhood Plan and these are in the process of being incorporated into the Plan and carefully checked.
Her comprehensive report will shortly be available on Feniton Parish Council’s website, along with the final (referendum) version of the plan.
The examiner undertook an unaccompanied visit of the village before Christmas as part of her thorough examination, as a result of which she requested that a map of the appeal sites, which were the subject of a super inquiry in January 2014, be included in the Neighbourhood Plan.
In her report, the examiner said:
The question of sustainable development at Feniton was assessed in detail by the Inspector who determined the four appeals in 2014 (paragraph 81 onwards, Appendix 7). In this context, I have had regard for her observation in paragraph 87 that substantially increasing the number of homes in a settlement without proportionate increases in the provision of local shops, infrastructure, employment opportunities and other local services would risk eroding community cohesion. The Inspector also concluded that development of the proposed sites to the west and east of the built-up area of new Feniton would cause considerable harm to the character and appearance of the area. From my site visit and having considered the landscape character and distinctive rural appearance, I agree with this finding. I also recognise that the developments of 50 houses at Winchester Park and 32 at Acland Park amount to significant growth both recently and currently, and a period of assimilation without ongoing development is needed at Feniton in the near future.
The examiner’s report will gladden the hearts of the steering group volunteers and all those who completed questionnaires during the consultation process. The results of the questionnaires and the extensive public consultation were carefully analysed and formed the basis of the Neighbourhood Plan policies.
In addition, the examiner said in her report:
I am satisfied that the defined built-up area boundary for Feniton is not unreasonably restrictive, and I support the planmakers’ approach not to allocate any new development sites at this stage. The approach to “Future Development” is consistent with the achievement of sustainable development and is in general compliance with the Local Plan. It does not conflict with the emerging Villages Local Plan.
Her closing paragraph is particularly poignant:
I commend the FNP Steering Group for producing a plan which is highly readable, sets out the issues for Feniton clearly and defines a comprehensive set of development principles and policies. I recognise that the Group has been working very diligently since 2014, to carry out meaningful consultation exercises so as to involve the local community, and to ensure that the necessary technical work was undertaken for a plan to meet all the legal requirements including the Basic Conditions. With the modifications which I have proposed, and subject to it passing through referendum, the FNP should provide a useful and powerful tool to guide future development in the Parish.
The final plan will be submitted to planning officers at East Devon District Council this week and they will make a report to the April meeting of EDDC’s Cabinet.
Assuming that there is no problem at this stage, the Neighbourhood Plan should be ready for referendum in the middle of May. It will be a simple Yes/No vote and if 50% of those who vote are in favour of the Plan being used to make planning decision, then Feniton’s Neighbourhood Plan will be ‘made’.
And then I think we should break out the champagne!